Emotional Updating Can Decrease Negative Rumination

Emotional regulation is at the core of many therapeutic approaches. People who receive treatment for mood issues often undergo some form of emotional regulation development. Anxiety and depression are two conditions that are dramatically affected by emotional dysregulation.

Research has shown that the better someone is at regulating their emotional experiences, the better chance they have of reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mood issues. But how does emotional regulation actually work? To answer this question, Madeline Lee Pe of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at KU Leuven in Belgium decided to conduct two studies examining the effects of updating. Specifically, she focused on how updating of emotional experiences in working memory (WM) affected emotional regulation.

Pe looked at rumination and reappraisal, two behaviors at the core of mood issues and emotional regulation. She found that participants who were highly skilled at updating emotional experiences were better at reappraising negative emotions than those with limited updating abilities. Further, the participants with strong updating abilities were also able to limit their negative rumination experiences to a greater extent than those with impaired emotional updating skills. These findings emerged for both trait mood states, as well as when Pe assessed moods and emotional regulation in daily life.

In sum, these findings provide a unique look into the mechanisms underlying emotional regulation. This new evidence could be beneficial for the advancement of therapeutic approaches aimed at reappraisal and rumination. Pe said, “These results identify the ability to update emotional information in working memory as a crucial process modulating the efficacy of emotion regulation efforts.”

For individuals who struggle with negative thoughts and find themselves unable to move past negative emotions, exercises aimed at strengthening emotional updating could prove beneficial. Although these findings are promising and present a new avenue of treatment and research, this topic should be explored more deeply to determine what other factors might contribute to impaired emotional updating for people living with mood issues.

Pe, M.L., Raes, F., Kuppens, P. (2013). The cognitive building blocks of emotion regulation: Ability to update working memory moderates the efficacy of rumination and reappraisal on emotion. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69071. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069071

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  • Cecile

    August 13th, 2013 at 4:14 AM

    Anyone who has the ability to better regulate his emotions is always going to tend to fare better than someone who gets stuck and can’t move past those emotions that have always had the tendency to hold him back.
    Give someone better coping and emotional regulation skills then I think that you in essencearegi ving this person a chance for a better life.

  • Fallon

    August 13th, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    Please, somebody tell me how to do this because I am so tired of always worrying over the same things in my life over and over again and never being able to come to a resolution. It is so frustrating knowing that others can simply move on while I continually stay mired in the past. I realize that most of this is due to my own inability to think forward, to leave the past in the past and harp on how it has impacted me. I think that I am ready to make those changes, but I know I need help but don’t know exactly how to ask for it or get it.

  • linda

    August 13th, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    may sound simple but there is tens and hundreds of variants to keep in mind here.how involved you are in something,how far you go with it,how resilient you are,past experiences and exposure to similar issues and many many others all put together determine how well you are able to regulate your emotions.if one learns to do this it can go a long way in helping the person get ahead.

  • Barron

    August 14th, 2013 at 4:21 AM

    I agree with linda. ON the surface this all seems so simple. Teach someone to regulate his emotions and voila! there you have it, the magi pill. But we know it’s not quite that simple, there are too many things in the past that can keep you from being able to do this, and even the practitioner with whom you are working and how effective those teaching techniques are.

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